I Traded it All to Be a Filmmaker

I left a secure job and a lifestyle that would have catapulted me into the upper middle class by age 30. I disappointed my family and shocked my friends, but the applause from the packed auditorium vindicated my decision to pursue my passion. At great expense, I decided to follow my dreams, to refuse to be disappointed or discouraged by life. As I reflected on all the difficulties I persevered through in reaching that point in my life, I felt a hand patting me on my shoulder praising my work.

I was born in Omaha, Nebraska on August 28,1972 because my mother slipped on an onion peel while shopping at the local Hinky Dinky Supermarket; the fall induced her labor and out I popped. In this rather unsophisticated environment, where on Saturday the second largest city is a packed college football stadium, I somehow developed artistic aspirations, but did not have the opportunity to make cultural pursuits a major part of my life. At the age of twelve, my father accepted a job with Levi Strauss and moved the family to Kansas City.

At this crucial stage in my development, I found the arts fascinating, especially while studying literature in junior high. Unlike the other students who flocked to the hundreds of early eighties Spring Break movies, I developed a discriminating taste and longed for the quality I would find in a Stanley Kubrick film. At night, tackling Crime and Punishment or watching Dr. Strangelove took precedence over arcades and football. I carried my love for literature with me when I attended the University of Kansas. I also studied economics, which combined my interests in philosophy, history and mathematics.

However, while I studied economics for somewhat practical reasons and never thought of the discipline as compelling enough to devote my entire life to, my interests in film and music began to mature. Exposed to the unconventional films of Hal Hartley, Mike Leigh, and John Sayles and to the poetic music of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, I prized their works’ brilliant storytelling, and this feature inspired my own work and my eventual pursuit of filmmaking. Facing high college loans and a desire to be economically secure, I chose not to pursue my dreams immediately out of college.

I fooled myself into thinking my passion for filmmaking was just a hobby and that I would be better off pursuing a more ” serious” career, one with respect and a high salary. As a result, I took a secure, comfortable job as a financial analyst just two weeks out of college. My family was proud of me, but I was not proud of myself. I quickly became restless and began to think seriously about film. After much deliberation, I knew what I had to do; I may have known it all along, but I needed time to work up the courage, to make myself determined to succeed.

I informed my mother and father of my decision to move to New York and pursue film, and I saw disappointment in their eyes. Despite my mother’ s crying and pleading and my father’ s clear dissatisfaction, I quit my job, rented a U-Haul, and headed east. In New York, I took out a loan and signed up for the New York Film Academy’s two-month intensive program. Not applying any of the risk management skills I learned as a financial analyst, I was going for broke, either I would make it, or I would go down in flames. The first day I had my hands on a camera and by the end of the program, I had written, directed, edited and produced four films.

Both thrilled and humbled by my experience, I got a glimpse of exactly how difficult the craft of filmmaking is. After two months of dedicated hard work, I had not even scratched the surface of what encompasses becoming a filmmaker, but I had reinforced my love for filmmaking. At this point, I knew I needed additional education to accomplish my goals; I needed to truly push my creative and intellectual limits if I ever I were to master the craft of filmmaking. After seeing the quality, diversity, and professionalism of NYU graduate student films at a screening last spring, I knew NYU could provide me with exactly the skills I need.

I find the idea of packing 100 strangers in a dark room to watch a piece of film pass through a projector to be an incredibly peculiar idea. But in this peculiarity of the art lies the miracle, for humans are willing to suspend disbelief and be moved by a character on a screen. The audience can somehow feel what that character feels and learn from that character’s experience. More than just this, fiction also gives the audience the ability to examine different facets of the human condition.

Trust, resentment, affection, flirtation, love, disappointment are issues that every human must deal with every day of their lives. They are issues that everyone deals with differently. Fiction allows one to experiment with putting people in different situations and seeing how they respond. Writing and directing my own films is my ultimate ambition. I know, however, that I am much further along in my development in the art of editing. Siting in the editing room watching every single frame, is one of my passions. Every single frame is important, each could change an entire film.

Like a mad scientist, with my hair sticking straight up, I work frantically with dozens of sections of film lined up around me. Still, I know where every single section is, every single frame. I spent many hours in the editing room piecing together my last film until I had created something I could be proud of. As the lights turned on and the audience’ s applause died down, I turned to see who had put his hand on my shoulder. It was Jeanyves, my actor sitting next to his admiring and grinning father. He said, “that was beautiful. ” At that moment, I felt like a filmmaker. I want to feel that way again.


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